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GCHQ Recruitment

Lord Christopher asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: GCHQ notified the Commissioners that as a result of recruitment schemes run in 1998, 182 individuals have joined the department or are awaiting completion of the recruitment process. The 1997 recruitment schemes yielded 236 new entrants. In addition, eight former members of staff were reappointed in 1998 compared with five in 1997.

Sierra Leone

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We welcomed the signature on 7 July of the Lome Peace Agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front. Our objective now is to help the government and people of Sierra Leone to implement the peace agreement, and thus build a framework for lasting peace and security.

We have implemented the £10 million package of assistance which my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary announced on 2 March 1999. This has included: UK military advisers helping to train the new, democratically accountable Sierra Leone Army; a range of equipment for the new Army, including uniforms, vehicles, and light weapons; logistical support and equipment for the ECOMOG peacekeeping forces; and support for civil society and government participation in the negotiation of the peace agreement. The ECOWAS Secretariat confirmed that the weapons could be imported as an exemption to the ECOWAS Small Arms Moratorium; and the UN Sanctions Committee was notified of these exports. We are working with the United Nations to support the early deployment of a UN peacekeeping force to Sierra Leone.

DFID and the MoD are also supporting a range of projects in Sierra Leone. We will take every

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opportunity, including at the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Durban, to encourage further support for Sierra Leone from others in the international community.

Foreign Countries' Senates: Membership

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What countries allow United Kingdom citizens to serve in the upper houses or senates of their legislatures.[HL4141]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: This information is not held centrally. To obtain it would involve a disproportionate amount of work.

Death Penalty

Lord Alderdice asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will ratify the Second Option Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty.[HL4202]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The United Kingdom signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on 31 March 1999. We will complete ratification by the end of this year.

North Korea: Missile Building Facilities

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have discussed with the United States Administration the possibility of the latter bombing, or otherwise destroying, North Korea's missile fabrication facilities, in the cause of pre-emptive counterproliferation; if not, whether they will now do so; and whether such an attack would be in accordance with international law.[HL3994]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: This scenario has not been discussed with the United States Administration, nor are there any plans to do so.

UK/US Bilateral Treaties

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many of the “over 500 bilateral treaties [between the United Kingdom and] the United States" (HC Deb., WA501) have been ratified by the United States Senate and are still lawful under the United States Constitution.[HL4158]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is for the US authorities to comment on whether the 500 plus bilateral UK/US treaties are lawful as a matter of US

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constitutional law. We shall pursue this matter with the US authorities, and I shall write to my noble friend when I receive their reply.

Outer Space Treaty

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they interpret the Outer Space Treaty as allowing all military activities except the basing of nuclear weapons on the moon; and, if so, how this is compatable with Article I of the Treaty; and[HL4194]

    Whether the placement above national airspace of space-based laser weapon systems which can be used as weapons of mass destruction is in accordance with international law, whether conventional or customary.[HL4198]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Under Article IV of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, States Parties undertake “not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner."

Indonesia: Genocide Convention

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Indonesia has ratified the Genocide Convention.[HL4182]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Indonesian Government has not ratified the Genocide Convention.

PFI Schemes: Servicing Costs

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 20 July (WA 95) and 11 October (WA63), what is the estimated cost to the Treasury in each year 1997-98 to 2000-01 of servicing the private sector capital borrowed under the Private Finance Initiative schemes to finance public investment propects.[HL4264]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There is no estimated cost. The Government pay unitary charges for the services they buy under PFI.

Vaccines and NAPS Co-administration Study

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will set out the results to date of any MoD research relevant to the health effects of vaccines, nerve agent pre-treatments and organophosphates.[HL4306]

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The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The initial phase of the research programme involving a preliminary toxicological study of the effects of the co-administration of vaccines and nerve agent pre-treatments (NAPS) in guinea pigs has recently been completed at CBD Porton Down. An outline of the study's findings was presented at a conference on research into Gulf veterans' illnesses in Washington DC in June. This initial stage of the overall research programme, which was primarily designed to help inform the design of more sophisticated longer-term studies, does not report any remarkable findings on the administration of the combination of vaccines and nerve agent treatments examined.

The results of the study were reviewed by the Independent Panel, which oversees the vaccine interactions research programme, at a meeting earlier this year. The panel agreed that the researchers should proceed with publication of the results of this initial study through the appropriate scientific channels. The panel also agreed to more extensive rodent studies, to be carried out at the National Institute of Biological Standards and Controls, and further studies at CBD Porton Down which will include sophisticated techniques to examine any subtle long-term neurophysiological and cognitive effects of the administration of vaccines and NAPS.

A copy of the information presented at the Washington meeting is available in the Library of the House. A more detailed paper is being prepared for submission to a peer-reviewed scientific journal and will be published as soon as possible. This information will be placed on the Gulf veterans' illnesses page on the MoD website in due course.

I am also today placing in the Library of the House copies of the Defence Scientific Advisory Council's Working Party Report on the Long Term Neurotoxicity of Anticholinesterases, together with the Ministry of Defence's response to the report. We are also placing in the Library three previously unpublished studies by CBD Porton Down, and one already published, which are referred to in the report.

The report, which is a review of existing literature and research, concludes that there is robust evidence that high doses of organophosphates may have long-term toxic effects on the peripheral nervous system; that there is more limited information about the long-term toxic effects of low doses of organophosphates on the central nervous system; and that there is little evidence that the prophylactic use of carbamates (such as NAPS) is associated with any long-term adverse health effects, although this should be further explored. We hope that it will be a useful source of information on the long-term effects of these compounds. The Ministry of Defence welcomes the report. We accept the recommendations for further research. As the MoD's response to the Report makes clear, we continue to carry out a range of research into the health effects of organophosphates and carbamates, including nerve agents and nerve agent pre-treatments. In addition to the research set out there, work is under way at CBD Porton Down to

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investigate the question of whether these compounds might have an effect on the immune system. This work, which is following up research reported in the open literature, is in its very early stages and we cannot yet say whether there is any such effect, or what the implications of that might be. We intend to make public the findings of this work as soon as possible, as each part of it reaches scientific maturity.

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